Diabetes-related deaths increased by 17% in 2020 and 15% in 2021.
Alarmingly, more than 100,000 Americans died from diabetes in 2021, according to a Reuters analysis.1
Comparatively, in 2019, diabetes was the seventh-leading cause of death in America and claimed more than 87,000 lives.
“Since then, the nation’s toll from diabetes has increased sharply, surpassing 100,000 deaths in each of the last two years and representing a new record-high level,” Reuters said.
The organization’s analysis of provisional death data compiled by the CDC found that diabetes-related deaths were up 17% in 2020 and 15% in 2021, compared with prepandemic levels in 2019.
These numbers excluded deaths directly attributed to COVID-19.
"The large number of diabetes deaths for a second year in a row is certainly a cause for alarm," Paul Hsu, an epidemiologist at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health, told Reuters. "Type 2 diabetes itself is relatively preventable, so it's even more tragic that so many deaths are occurring.”
However, Carlie Traylor, PharmD, director of Strategic Initiatives and Student Affairs at the National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA), is not surprised by the increase in diabetes mortality. "Diabetes is a chronic illness. It has often gone undetected,” Traylor told Drug Topics®.
Most Americans don’t see their health care provider often enough, and many do not even have a primary care physician, Traylor explained. Many saw their providers much less frequently during the pandemic—a time when people also became more sedentary.
“The vast majority of people were not exercising enough, were eating worse, and were under a significant amount of stress,” Traylor said. "Patients with diabetes…even more so, with the lack of physician oversight.”
However, pharmacies are an ideal location for screening patients for pre-diabetes and diabetes, and helping them with HbA1C levels, lifestyle changes, medication, and other factors, Traylor noted.
Most patients see their pharmacist 35 times per year on average, while they see their physician only 2 times per year, Traylor noted. “We are already embedded in the community. We do blood glucose screening and are able to identify patients pretty quickly."
After customers receive a COVID-19 vaccine, they need to wait 15 minutes for observation. “That is the perfect time to do a diabetes workup. If you can catch pre-diabetes or diabetes early and can manage it well, you can manage it before it goes too far and can lead to deaths,” Traylor said.
Traylor and NCPA have helped a number of community pharmacies become CDC-recognized National Diabetes Prevention Program providers.2 More than 45 pharmacies have been participating in the program since last year.3
The first 10 participating pharmacies helped diabetic or pre-diabetic patients lose an average of 7% of their initial body weight, or 16 pounds, on average.